I stood on the porch of my daddy’s house, looking out over the familiar land I’d grown up loving. So many memories danced through my head. Once those memories had only been for Josh, my childhood sweetheart, fiancée, and now a fallen soldier. He had been my world even after his death—until Cage York came walking into my life with a swagger and a naughty mouth.
He was nothing like Josh, but I’d fallen in love with him anyway. Smiling, I picked up my glass of sweet tea and took a sip. I was waiting on Daddy to get back from his trip to the stockyard. We had been going to have lunch together today, but his new farmhand had called in sick this morning. I had been almost here when Daddy had called to cancel, so I decided to come and just enjoy the peace and quiet for a while.
I wanted to stay and see Daddy today. It had been hard leaving him at first. When my mother passed away, I had still been so young. Through the grief and pain, Daddy and I had grown stronger together. Leaving him had made me feel guilty, but it had been time. I couldn’t stay with him forever.
“Thought I recognized that Jeep parked out front,” Jeremy’s voice called out from the front yard. I turned my head to see Josh’s twin brother standing underneath the maple tree with his hands in his front pockets, smiling at me. I hadn’t seen him since his winter break from college.
I set my glass on the wooden ledge of the porch railing and ran down the steps. Jeremy opened his arms for me to throw myself into. He had been just as much a part of my life growing up as Josh had. The three of us had been inseparable. When Josh had died, Jeremy and I had clung together. We’d made it through by staying close. I just hadn’t realized that Jeremy was ready to move on with his life until Cage came barreling into mine. In a way, Cage had saved both of us.
Jeremy’s arms wrapped around me and picked me up off the ground. “You’re home! I didn’t know you were coming home this week! I thought you had another week before you came back,” I said, squeezing him hard. I’d missed him. Seeing his face was always bittersweet. He looked so much like Josh.
“Semester’s over. Time to enjoy my summer break. What’re you doing here?” He asked, setting me down on the ground in front of him.
“I came to have lunch with Daddy. He’s gone to the stockyard though. His help called in sick this morning.”
Jeremy waggled his eyebrows teasingly. “Why don’t you have lunch with me instead?”
“I’d love to. I have some chicken salad in the fridge, corn on the cob and black-eyed peas, and biscuits on the stove, keeping them warm. More than enough for just me and Daddy. Come on in and we’ll eat, and you can tell me about all the girls’ hearts you’ve broken this year.”
There was a flicker of unease in Jeremy’s eyes that most people wouldn’t have noticed, but then most people hadn’t grown up spending everyday of their life with him. I knew him too well. Because I knew him so well, I decided to let it go for now. He was protecting something and I was going to let him.
“Your homemade chicken salad?” he asked with a pleased look on his face.
“Hell, yeah,” he replied, and bounded up the stairs without waiting for me.
This was nice. Lately I’d been missing home. . . Daddy. . . Jeremy. . . the past. Not because I wasn’t happy with Cage—because I was, deliriously so. It was just that I didn’t feel like I could talk to him about home. Cage and Daddy still didn’t speak to each other. When they were together, it was awkward. Even though Cage didn’t mention it, I knew he still worried that he would never measure up to Josh. If I ever mentioned Josh, the look on Cage’s face said it all. I just couldn’t be open with him about everything.
I fixed both of us a plate and sat down at the table across from Jeremy. We’d been eating together at this table since I was a little girl. It felt good to still have moments like this. “Tell me about college. You madly in love yet?”
Jeremy glanced up at me then back down at his plate, then he shoveled a forkful of peas into his mouth. Guess that wasn’t something he wanted to talk about. Which meant we needed to talk about it. It had always been Josh’s job to get Jeremy to talk when he had a problem. I had watched their dynamic for years. I knew Jeremy as well as I had known Josh.
“Talk Jer,” I said, setting my own fork down and staring at him.
He let out a sigh and shook his head. “Nothing to talk about.”
“Yeah, and I know better than that. Can’t lie to me,” I replied.
Jeremy leaned back in his seat and leveled me with his eyes. “Fine. I don’t think college life is for me. I thought it was what I wanted. I couldn’t wait to get out of here.. . . You know, away from this small town. But I miss it. A helluva lot. I miss waking up early and going outside before the dew has dried. I miss the smell of the land and working with the sun on my back while I accomplish something. For so damn long I wanted out of this life and now I know it’s my home. It’s who I am.”
I understood some of that. I missed the land too. Maybe not as much as he did, but it was a part of both of us. “Then move home. If this is the life you want, come home.”
I could see the torn expression in his eyes. “I want to. . . but Momma is so damn proud of me. For the first time in my life, she acts as proud of me as she was of Josh. I loved my brother, you know that, Eva, but I never was as good as Josh in Momma’s eyes. She adored him. He was the one who everyone loved.” He paused and his eyes flicked down, away from me. “I understand why. I loved him too. But it’s nice to feel like for once I’m doing something that she’s proud of even if she hadn’t wanted me to go in the beginning. She’s glad I did now.”
I leaned across the table and glared at Jeremy hard until he had to lift his gaze back up to meet mine. “Jeremy Beasley, you listen to me, and I mean listen to me good. Your momma thinks you walk on water. She adores you just as much as she adored Josh. How could she not? After everything, you were the reason everyone—me, your momma, your daddy, everyone—grieved for Josh, and you stood there in the gap. When you should have ben grieving and falling apart, you kept us all together. You, Jeremy. You. If you decide you want to come home and live here and have this life, your momma will be thrilled. She wants you close, Jer. But more than anything, she wants you to be happy. Can’t you see that? She wants you to have a chance at life. She wants you to get to live the life your brother didn’t.”
A small smile tugged on the corner of Jeremy’s lips. It was a crooked smile that reminded me so much of Josh’s. “I’m glad you were here today. I needed you to set me straight. Always were good for that,” Jeremy teased.
“We all have our talents,” I replied, and winked at him before picking up my biscuit.
“How are things with you and Cage?” Jeremy asked before taking another bite of his food.
“Good—no, great. He got a full-ride scholarship to Hill State in Tennessee for baseball. I’m so proud of him.”
Jeremy frowned. “How’s that gonna work? I can’t imagine York running off and leaving you behind. Last time I was around, he was pretty damn attached to you.”
The fear eating away at me was back. I wanted to believe the best, but the truth was, there was a chance Daddy could say no. What if he said no? “I’m going with him,” I replied, deciding that speaking it might make it true.
“Wow, really? I didn’t think your dad would be real keen on you running off with Cage.”
Not what I needed to hear right then. I managed to shrug indifferently. “Maybe not, but I love him.”
“And when Eva loves someone, she loves them hard and with all her heart. I know that. I’ve seen it in action,” Jeremy said with a sad smile that I didn’t understand and didn’t want to dig to deep and figure out. It was odd
I glanced down at my phone again for the third time in ten minutes. It was getting late. Eva had texted that she was headed back from her dad’s over an hour ago. I didn’t want to text her and check on her while she was driving, for fear she’d glance down at her phone and take her eyes off the road. If she wasn’t here in the next ten minutes, I was going after her.
“Loosen up. Damn, I finally get you alone for more than ten f**king minutes, and all you do is sit around sulking and checking your phone. I love Manda like mad crazy, but even we have to take breaks from each other. You need to learn to breathe without her under your arm all the time.” Preston was frowning at me from across the table at Live Bay where I’d met up with him and Dewayne to hear Jackdown play. Eva knew where I was and was coming straight here.
“Shut up,” I growled at Preston. He tucked some of his long blond hair behind his ear, and I swear two girls walked up to the table because of it. The dude and his hair were a damn chick magnet. Annoying as hell, since most of them came in pairs and one was always looking at me. Not interested. Never will be.
“Hey, Preston, you’re alone tonight?” one of them said, leaning into him with her double d’s pressed in his face.
“My girl may not be here, but I’m still not available. Go sniff somewhere else,” he replied with a flip of his hand. I didn’t even make eye contact with them. My eyes were locked on the door, waiting for Eva to walk inside.
“Next time point one in my direction,” Dewayne said as he put his beer down on the table and sat down beside me. “I walk off for three damn minutes and miss that. I need a f**king distraction. They’d have done it. Both of ’em.”
“Go after them. I’m sure they’d be all over that tattooed-dreadlocks-pierced lip-and-leather-bracelet thing you got going. You’re scary as hell, D. It’s gonna take more than a Malibu Barbie to take you on.” Preston had summed up Dewayne well. The dude was rough. Females liked it, but then he’d snarl and they’d take off running.
“You’re right. Those two wouldn’t have been able to handle me. Even with two of them.”
Not a mental image I needed. Where the f**k was Eva?
The door opened and in she walked as if I’d summoned her with my desperation. Her long dark hair was loose and windblown, curling around her shoulders. The shorts she was wearing had once been a pair of her favorite jeans. She’d cut them, and although she looked f**king amazing, she had cut them way too short. The snug-fitting shirt she had on was the one she’d bought to wear to my games this past year. It had my number on it.
Dewayne let out a low whistle. “Damn, York, when you decide to f**king settle down, you sure pick some prime-choice—”
“Don’t. Finish. That. Thought,” I cut him off before he could completely piss me off. If Dewayne was looking, so was every other male in the damn bar. I jumped up and went to get what was mine.
“Go get her!” Preston called out with a hoot of laughter. Stupid shit knew what it felt like to have your girl looked at. He dealt with that about as well as I did. He was just an ass when he wanted to be.
“Hey.” Eva’s eyes lit up when she saw me coming through the crowd to get her.
I didn’t reply. I needed her first. Pulling her against me, I licked her bottom lip before I slid my tongue hungrily into her mouth. I’d missed her taste today. She’d been gone too long. Giggling, Eva pulled back before I completely forgot where we were, and smiled up at me.
“I missed you too,” she said.
“Like crazy,” I assured her. I had thought of little else while she was gone.
“Daddy said he’d pay for it.”
I’d meant I wasn’t going to Tennessee without her. I’d been ready to make it happen or not go. But hearing her say that we wouldn’t have that obstacle to overcome was like a shitload of bricks had just been lifted off my damn chest. I could take a deep breath.
“Hot damn,” I growled, and pulled her hard up against me. “I need you. Now.”
I was ready to take her outside and celebrate. Eva, however, fluttered her eyelashes at me, which meant she wanted to do something else and was being adorable so she could get her way.
“Let’s dance first,” she said, grabbing my arm and pulling me toward the dance floor covered up with sweaty bodies. Jackdown wasn’t playing yet, so the DJ was still controlling the music. Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” started playing, and Eva glanced up at me with a wicked grin. I was in trouble. We might end up f**king in the damn Mustang.
I let her pull me into the middle of the moving bodies and I watched as she ran her hands down my chest, stopping to flick both my pierced n**ples before she started moving in ways I only wanted her moving in the privacy of our apartment. Damn.
When she started sliding her body down mine until she was squatting with her mouth level with my zipper, I decided we wouldn’t make it until the next song. Reaching down, I jerked her up, and she threw her head back and cackled with laughter. My naughty little girl wanted to play. Fine. We’d play.
I slipped a leg between hers, pressing between those tiny bottoms she was wearing, then grabbed her tight little ass, pulling it up against me before rocking my h*ps to the music. The fire in her eyes was instant. Eva placed her hands flat against my chest and closed her eyes. When her mouth went lax and it slowly opened, I knew I’d had enough. I grabbed her hand and pulled her off the dance floor and straight for the door.
When we stepped into the warm evening breeze, my pulse kicked up higher. I was taking her in the mustang. I wouldn’t be able to wait.
“Where are we going?” Eva asked breathlessly.
“My car,” I replied, pulling her back to the dark parking lot. “I was hot when you walked in girl. I didn’t need any more encouragement.”
I jerked open the passenger-side door. I slide the seat back as far as it would go then laid it back and sat down, pulling her onto my lap before closing the door.
“In my car, baby,” I growled, grabbing her head and pulling her surprised mouth down so I could invade her with my tongue the way I was about to invade her body. “Fucking shorts. Too damn short,” I muttered against her lips.
She straddled me, pulling her knees up to each side of my legs, and pressed her heat against me. Even through the jeans I could feel how ready she was already. I slid my hands under her shirt and undid her bra, leaving her shirt on in case anyone walked back there. I didn’t want anyone seeing her tits. Those were mine. Only mine. I took small bites of her neck and shoulders. Eva always tasted so good. Everywhere.
“When we get home, I’m gonna enjoy you. Every part. But right now, I need inside you. Get these shorts off.”
Eva pulled back and her eyes were hooded with desire. I watched her as she unsnapped her shorts and began to wiggle out of them and her panties while she sat in my lap.
I reached down and pulled them the rest of the way off. “Lie back,” I whispered, adjusting her in my lap so that her back was against my chest. I opened her legs and ran my hands down the inside of her thighs. Her skin was so soft, it always fascinated me.
“Please, Cage,” she begged just as my fingers teased the crease of her leg barely grazing her center.
“Please what, baby? Tell me,” I said as her head lay back on my shoulder and she let out a sigh of frustration, making me smile.
“My f**king pleasure,” I replied, slipping a finger between her wet folds and causing her to jerk in my lap. She was more than ready for me. I slipped my finger into her warmth a few times and let her enjoy the playful teasing before I couldn’t handle it anymore. My zipper was cutting into my damn dick. I had to get some relief.
I wrapped an arm around her waist and lifted her while I undid my jeans and jerked them down with my other hand until I was free of my confinement. I didn’t have a condom, but we didn’t need one. I’d been checked and given a clean bill of health and Eva was on the pill. “Spread them wider,” I said as she adjusted herself over my lap.
I directed it to the wet heat that I knew was going to send me to heaven with one thrust. “Come down on me, Eva,” I instructed, and Eva slammed her h*ps down on me hard. We both cried out in pleasure as her body adjusted to fit me.
“Damn,” I groaned, not expecting her to be so anxious. “You want it hard tonight?” I asked.
“Yes. I want to be f**ked hard,” she whispered, grabbing my upper thighs as she lifted herself again.
“You talk to me like that and I’m gonna blow real damn fast,” I groaned as Eva slammed down on me again. She wasn’t kidding that she wanted it hard tonight. I’d give my baby naughty sex if that was what she wanted.
Slipping my hand between her legs, I flicked her clit, causing a surprised cry from her. “Oh, yes,” she moaned.
“You ride my cock, baby, and I’ll keep this pretty p**sy happy,” I said, feeling her shiver against me.
“Oh God, Cage. I’m gonna come fast if you’re touching me.”
I chuckled against her ear. “That’s a good thing, because if you keep slamming down on my c*ck like that I’m gonna blow pretty damn fast. Especially if you talk dirty.”
She turned her head to look up at me. I could see the twinkle in them. She was excited. I’d just asked for it and she was about to test it. Damn. She lifted her ass again and I squeezed her cl*t just as she fell back down on me. Her loud cry of pleasure made me smile. “I’m gonna come. Fuck, you feel good. So good inside me. I wanna feel you shoot inside me. Come with me, Cage,” she begged. I was so close. I ran my thumb over her cl*t a few more times and her body began to tremble. Reaching for her waist, I picked her up and began controlling the rhythm. When her orgasm began, the tight squeezing milked mine out of me as I followed her into release.
Wrapping my arms around her waist, I held her against me as her body jerked with each wave that came over her. She slowly began to relax against me. I was still buried inside her. I didn’t want to pull out yet. I liked feeling her warmth.
“I love you,” she said breathlessly.
She was my home.